Five European tennis federations back Wimbledon’s Russia ban
The federations backed the All England club's controversial move
The Swedish, Icelandic, Finnish, Danish and Norwegian tennis federations have come out in support of the decision to ban Russian tennis players from Wimbledon this summer.
Though several sporting bodies have banned Russians from international events on an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendation as a response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine, the women's WTA and men's ATP tennis tours allowed them to perform under neutral flags.
As Wimbledon is the only privately-run Grand Slam, however, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has been free to prevent Russians and Belarusian from playing at SW19 outright.
In a press conference on Tuesday, AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt insisted that the decision was not discriminatory, despite condemnation from the likes of the ATP, WTA, and world number one Novak Djokovic.
Yet while the move has its critics, it has found support from the tennis federations of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland, as confirmed on the Norwegian Tennis Federation's official website.
"The LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) made a brave decision banning all Russian and Belarus players from Wimbledon and major grass tournaments in Britain," began a statement, as it added that the Norwegian Tennis Federation "supports [the] LTA's decision and hopes [the] ATP, WTA, ITF (International Tennis Federation) and TE (Tennis Europe) will follow in their footsteps."
"Sanctioning individual athletes is a hard decision. Even so, the consequences can not be compared to what the people of Ukraine are experiencing – day after day," it continued, claiming that "hard measures" are needed to bring Russia's "meaningless" military operation to an end and noting that the decision is "supported by several federations" before the correspondence was undersigned by the Swedish, Icelandic, Finnish, Danish and Norwegian tennis federations.
Thus far, other European tournaments are yet to follow Wimbledon's lead. But reports from Italy at the weekend alleged that Prime Minister Mario Draghi wants to see Russian players prohibited from playing the Rome Masters on May 9 with Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) head Giovanni Malago bowing to political pressure and stating that the decision is in the government's hands while citing the IOC recommendation.
"As president of the CONI and a member of the IOC, I deal with sports policy and not with politics," Malago stressed to Corriere della Sera.
"In Italy, I repeat, I represent the IOC. And the Executive Board recommended all federations not to invite Russian and Belarusian athletes to tournaments and sporting events. Wimbledon, which is a private club, has followed this indication," he pointed out.
"It is up to the government to make a decision. They will be studying the case, they will assess the situation, and then they will make a decision. I am convinced [it will be the best for the country]," Malago concluded.
Without the presence of Russian athletes, Wimbledon is set to kick off on June 27.